A restaurant in San Francisco’s Presidio — with a secret dessert

by Carolyn Jung on September 1, 2010

Dirty dozen at Presidio Social Club

After a two-year hiatus, Ray Tang, the opening chef of the Presidio Social Club in San Francisco, is back at the helm of the picturesque restaurant located in the former Army post turned national park. Indeed, the long, clapboard building, a short drive from the Laurel Inn, was once the barracks for enlisted men.

It’s always been a laid-back restaurant, where you can rock jeans and a T-shirt just fine. Tang has brought back a lot of familiar dishes from when he was first chef there, including crabcake sliders ($12) and island-style ahi poke ($11). He’s also re-instituted the Sunday pig roast, where he cooks a whole pig in a “Caja China” wooden box. A plate of roast pork with fixings is $20 that night.

Tang also added a Monday night clambake through the summer, where $32 will get you a feast of lobster, clams and mussels, along with potatoes, corn on the cobb and dessert. What’s more, Presidio Social Club is now an all-day restaurant, meaning you can walk in anytime from lunch-time to closing to get a meal without being turned away if you’re starving at, say, 3 p.m., when most other places would close the kitchen between shifts.

I was invited to dine as a guest at dinner recently to check out the new menu. First up, those adorable crab cake sliders ($12). With a topping of aioli and tangy slaw on soft, airy tiny buns, they almost had an Asian flavor to them.

When we ordered the pan sauteed calamari Doré ($10), our server made a point to explain that it was not deep-fried calamari as so many people often expect. Instead, the calamari are first sauteed, then beaten egg is poured over them, creating almost a creamy, open-face omelet. Green olives lent a piquant note.

The burger with fries ($12) can be topped with Gruyere ($1.50) and bacon-onion saute ($2).  The meat was appropriately manly and juicy. The cheese and sweet-rich onion marmalade are definitely worthwhile additions, too, lending the burger a lot more interest. The special of the day was ling cod ($19) that arrived on a bed of fava beans and corn, with a loose pesto oil drizzled around the plate.

For dessert, there was a delicious lemon meringue cake ($8). Layers of light cake were interspersed with lemon curd, and crowned with a cloud-like, mallow-y top.

Psst. For a real treat, insiders know there’s also a secret menu item for dessert. It’s not listed on the regular dessert menu. But if you ask for it, they’ll make it for you. And believe me, it’s worth asking for.

It’s the “Dirty Dozen” ($9) — a dozen cinnamon-sugar-dusted donut holes, fried up fresh, with molten chocolate hidden inside. A little cup of creme anglaise is served alongside to gild the lily.

– Carolyn Jung of FoodGal

[Photo Courtesy of Carolyn Jung]

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